THE year was 1415 and Henry V’s vast army had begun to gather around the fortified port of Southampton.

The city’s castle and walls were built to defend Southampton from the French just across the Channel. But now they must have seemed just as important to the residents in keeping out the English and Welsh soldiers that were camping in the farmland outside the battlements.

But what kind of city would Henry have found himself living in 600 years ago as he prepared for war?

Certainly it would have been a nervous place for the 3,000 local inhabitants. After Southampton was badly damaged by the French in 1338, the city was on the defensive and had turned in on itself.

Merchants’ houses at Quay Side had been torn down to be replaced by a fragile wall to keep any future attacks at bay. Outside were vast tracts of farmland where the English army now set up camp.

Southampton City Council’s archaeology unit manager, Andy Russell, explained that within the walls there would have been rows and rows of two-storey timber houses.

“Space within the confines of the wall would have been very limited.

“You would have the merchants who had been forced out of their homes living next door to a family of eight squeezed into one house.

“The brave few who lived outside the city’s boundaries lived in constant fear they would be under attack.”

As 10,000 men came to Southampton in preparation for war, many had to set up camp outside at what is now the parks on Above Bar Street or seek shelter at the taverns and inns on the city's outskirts of the city.

After dark the gates to the city would be locked down, preventing anyone from coming in or leaving.

“Even though there was nowhere for the army to stay they did bring money into the town,” added Mr Russell.

“This meant traders could raise their prices because they knew the soldiers would pay it.

“There could have been up to 5,000 members of the army camp outside the city’s walls just because there was not enough room.”

With more people to feed, Southampton’s trade was roaring, with carts full of supplies rushing in and out of the gates on a daily basis.

Farms at Portswood and Millbrook were working overtime to ensure there was enough food being delivered into the city.

“In the days leading up to the battle it would have been all hands on deck, as soldiers were told they would need to take three months' supply with them.

“You can imagine bakers and blacksmiths were working overtime to get everyone ready before they went off to battle.”